Tiger Woods closes with 70, finishes 12th for strong week at Honda

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Tiger Woods closes with 70, finishes 12th for strong week at Honda

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods closes with 70, finishes 12th for strong week at Honda

If Tiger Woods isn’t all the way back, he’s well on his way there.

Woods closed the Honda Classic on Sunday with an even-par 70 to finish the week at Even-Par 280 and in solo 12th.

For a guy who once craved nothing less than victory, that may not seem like what he wants.

But he showed so much promise this week.

Woods came two shots short of posting his first top 10 on the PGA Tour since the 2015 Wyndham Championship, almost doing so in just his third official Tour start in his return from a fourth back surgery. In short time, Woods has gone from completely out of competitive golf to looking in a lot of ways like his old self.

Is he the dominant force of yesteryear? Not at this moment.

But there’s so much to like from this showing.

Woods began Sunday seven back at even par and tied for 11th, with an outside shot at the win. And for a time, it appeared he was putting himself in position for a chance.

The 42-year-old began the round in style by draining a 20-footer for birdie at the par-4 first. He missed a 10-footer for birdie at the par-5 third but quickly rectified that by burying a 9-footer for birdie at the next (the par-4 fourth).

He was now 2 under through four and feeling it. Another nine-footer for birdie dropped at the par-4 eighth and he was suddenly within four.

But he lost momentum from there. His 5-footer for par at the par-4 ninth lipped out on the left, and that opening bogey of the day was certainly a bit of a killer if he wanted to contend for the win – even though he went out in 2-under 33.

He entered the back nine five back, and started with four straight pars. After draining an 18-footer for birdie at the par-4 14th, he was back to 3 under and within four.

A run at the title was still feasible with an incredible finish.

And then The Bear Trap snatched out all hopes immediately.

For the second time in three days, Woods’ tee shot found the water at the par-3 15th with his ball leaking just a little too far right and short. His 12-footer for bogey didn’t fall, meaning a second double bogey there in three days.

Now 1 under, Woods played the par-4 16th textbook from tee to green but raced a 26-footer some 7 feet by and missed the comebacker. The three-putt bogey dropped Woods all the way to even par. In two holes, he’d gone from a high of T-7 on the day to T-12. He then finished par-par to get in the clubhouse at T-11.

Once again Woods had a tough time late. He played The Bear Trap in 3 over on Sunday and 8 over for the week.

But overall, this week was a revelation.

This bests his T-23 recently at the Farmers Insurance Open and certainly quells a lot of fears coming out of last week’s missed cut at the Genesis Open.

Woods’ ball-striking this week was so improved from what he did in those two starts, and he was shaping and hitting shots that looked a good deal like the old Tiger. There were plenty of stretches where he appeared in complete control of his game, something that was a rare sight at Torrey or Riviera.

To finish off the week, he hit 9/14 fairways and 14/18 greens in the final round. He needed 31 putts.

Woods led the field for the week in proximity to the hole at 29’3″. And if there’s any good sign there was this … Woods was second in the whole field in driving distance at 318.9 yards. He’s still got that massive power.

His short game and putting were mostly on point in his first two starts, but his approach play and driving – ESPECIALLY his driving – were seriously lacking.

At the Honda Classic, though, he showed major improvement in both those areas. As we said, for stretches he looked in total control in both areas, able to hit basically whatever shot he wanted.

His short game and putting were both solid, if unspectacular, around PGA National’s Champions Course.

That’s not to say Woods can be 100 percent satisfied. His driver was still wild at times, and there were stretches where his approach play did fail him. His full wedge play was also lacking, as he failed to knock a lot of those close.

His course management is still a work in progress as well, with some occasional bad misses – the water balls off the tee at the 15th on Friday and Sunday were especially jarring.

But for those bullish on Woods’ comeback, this was a big week. If he fully back on form? No.

Yet, Tiger Woods winning another PGA Tour event is suddenly realistic again.

And that’s pretty exciting so early in his comeback.

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